Everyone knows that the German luxury trio, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW are not the most reliable brands on the market, but there are a few understandable reasons why that is the case and a few rather questionable ones.
It is true that making a luxury car requires a lot more research and development money that is being spent on all sorts of technology which includes safety kit, endless convenience, and luxury gadgets, advanced A/C, a myriad of seat features and adjustments, expensive infotainment systems, sophisticated suspension components and so on.
Audi and BMW are focused on making innovative, technology-driven luxury cars which means that they often offer features that have never been seen before. This inherently makes them incredibly complex which also makes them more prone to issues, especially if not maintained accordingly.
On the other hand, Lexus is also a true luxury brand so it’s rather obvious that a luxury car can also be reliable. Either way, Audi and BMW are incredibly similar when it comes to reliability, the differences are so marginal that it’s difficult to pick a winner.
Audi reliability – Average at best, but highly dependent on proper maintenance
According to a few credible online sources such as Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and What Car, Audi is an average reliability brand at most times. Consumer reports placed Audi at 14th place out of 30 brands, J.D. and WhatCar also deem Audi as a mediocre brand at best.
The most reliable Audi models are the Audi A3, the Audi A4, and the Audi A5. This is mostly because all three of these were relatively old models at the time when these surveys were conducted as most luxury car model generations tend to become progressively better while they are nearing the end of production.
The least reliable Audi model is the Audi Q7 because it is most prone to issues. It does not help that it costs quite a lot of money to fix the Q7 as well. All in all, Audi is not the most reliable brand on the planet because only a few Audi models can offer above-average reliability results.
However, if you maintain your Audi according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and you take proper care of it on a daily basis, you should be able to use and drive one for hundreds of thousands of miles.
BMW reliability – Average at best, but also highly dependent on proper maintenance
BMW is more or less identical to Audi as these two brands tend to battle each other in many segments which also include maintenance and reliability. It is worth mentioning that most surveys tend to favor BMW models over Audi models, but when BMW models do go wrong it usually costs more money to fix.
As such, these two are really similar. The BMW X1 is the highest-rated BMW model when it comes to reliability for more or less the very same reasons. The BMW X1 is more reliable than the most reliable Audi model, the Audi A4.
However, the BMW 7-Series is the most unreliable BMW model by a long shot, and no other BMW nor any Audi can even come close, not even the Q7. It can never be overstressed that maintaining luxury cars such as these is not something you want to ignore as they need a lot more maintenance when compared to regular cars.
In essence, both of these are so closely matched that it is not possible to pick a clear winner. In some segments, Audis are better while in others, BMWs are better.
Why are luxury cars so unreliable and how does Lexus manage to offer reliable luxury cars?
This is a question that tends to spark a great bit of interest in the heads of most luxury car enthusiasts as Lexus seems to dominate the world of luxury cars as far as reliability is concerned. The reason why luxury cars tend to be unreliable is that they are complex, they offer lots of innovations and bad reliability results don’t hamper new car sales all that much.
Complexity makes everything more prone to issues and cars are no different. The more parts you put together, the more things can potentially go wrong. Secondly, these brands want their cars to be filled with innovative technology which also hampers reliability.
Thirdly, new car owners simply don’t care about reliability all that much because all new cars come with 3-5 year-long warranties. Even though Audis and BMWs are not nearly as reliable as Lexus cars, most people prefer Audi and BMW over Lexus.
The reasons why Lexus makes reliable luxury cars are because they are not as innovative, they are not as technology-driven, they are not as complex, and they tend to perfect certain aspects before they make them widely available.
What is the difference between Lexus engines and Audi, BMW engines?
Lexus is owned by Toyota and Toyota is focused on selling reliable cars. Reliability is much more important when it comes to mass-application cars such as Toyotas, Hondas, or Jeeps. Lexus uses engines that tend to be older and a lot less complex.
While some brands offer mild-hybrid technology, turbocharged, superchargers, and all sorts of engineering wizardry, Lexus tries to make simple engines that are inherently more durable.
Why don’t luxury car customers care about reliability?
Luxury car customers do care about reliability, but not nearly as much as economy-level car customers do. Higher-end cars are bought from new and most owners tend to keep them for about a few years. This means that while they are being driven by their original owners, they tend to be the most reliable.
Furthermore, most cars come with extensive warranties which means that if something does go wrong, you are not likely going to be the one that pays the bills.
Is BMW more expensive to maintain and repair than Audi?
BMW is indeed a bit more expensive to maintain and repair when compared to Audi as BMWs use BMW-specific parts and BMW-specific engines. Audi engines are also being used across the entire Volkswagen Group which means that there are more parts.
Maintenance-wise, they are incredibly similar, so much so that it makes no sense to compare them.